Questions following provision of non-current asset details

Jenni Gwynne made this Freedom of Information request to Avon Fire and Rescue

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Avon Fire and Rescue Service,

Thank you for providing details of non-current assets as per your Asset register in response to my earlier request. Having looked at these I have some questions.

Please would you explain why in order to reconcile your asset register with your published accounts you have included a “difference” of over £33 million from the purchase cost as recorded in the asset register?

Please provide details of exactly how this difference is made up i.e. impairments, depreciation, revaluations, enhancements, additions, disposals etc, for each asset.

This difference appears to have occurred in the period between 01/04/2007 when the Revaluation Reserve came into being and 01/04/2010. Shouldn’t the impairments of over £20 million in this period have been recorded in the Impairment reserve?

As per another whatdotheyknow request you explained re your asset register/capital accounting:

“We also have a rolling maintenance contract with Real Asset Management Plc for capital accounting, since Sept 2009, average spend £1.3k per year. For finance asset management will also use Hardcat Ltd, which is on an annual rolling maintenance contract since April 2003 and annual spend is £8.2k.”

In reply to my previous request you mention that it is difficult to extract basic information from your asset register:

“Please appreciate that the information that you are requesting is not readily extracted from the Asset Register and due to temporary resource implications within the finance department, expertise to gather this information is limited”.

It seems AFRS are paying very large amounts for a poor system, which perhaps also inhibits proper auditing to be done on non-current assets.

Please explain why all information was not transferred from one system to another (from the same provider), and if this wasn’t possible why figures weren’t entered manually, to ensure proper record keeping?

It would appear that notes to your published accounts explaining treatment of transactions relating to non-current assets may not be being followed. Also per my previous request:

"• Could you also let me know if impairments (over and above any
revaluation reserve amount) which I understand are included in the income
and expenditure account, are recorded in the Impairment Reserve in the
asset register?
Yes – the asset register records all movements on the impairment reserve
by asset."

Please provide registration numbers for the following disposed of vehicles, whose asset register numbers are as follows:
414, 416, 419, 430 to 463. 468, 469, 470, 472, 473, 475, 476, 477, 547, 548, 549, 550, 581, 582, 583, 584.

Please also provide details of how these vehicles were disposed of.

Please provide details of assets numbered as below in the asset register or let me know if these were not used at all:
54, 55, 387, 429, 523, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528, 529, 536 as no information is shown for these.

Also, please let me know if I am correct in the following:

• Fire House: 9 Lyndale Road, Yate, BS37 appears to be valued at Zero

• a total of £18.4 million for depreciation and impairment appears to have been charged/written off for just the buildings of Temple HQ and the old Temple Fire Station over the ten years since 01/04/07:

Temple Back Station & HQ Purchase cost per Asset Register £18,845,783
Temple Back Station & HQ Enhancements per Asset Register £741,222
Temple Back Station & HQ depreciation at 01/04/07 £1,165,848

• 2016/17 Impairment (i.e. loss in value) for one year on New Temple Fire Station buildings approx £900,000 (20% of its cost)

• Vehicle valuations appear to be based on current market cost including VAT divided by years of expected life, and I believe should be based on cost excluding VAT (as I believe input VAT is reclaimed)

Yours sincerely

Jenni Gwynne

Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write to acknowledge your letter/email dated 17.01.2018 requesting
additional information following our response (sent 29.11.2017) to your
request (our ref 4079) concerning Avon Fire Authority non-current assets.

 

Your request will be dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and you will receive a response within the statutory
timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, from the date of
receipt subject to the information not being exempt or containing a
reference to a third party. In some circumstances Avon Fire & Rescue
Service may be unable to achieve this deadline. If this is likely you will
be informed and given a revised date at the earliest opportunity.

 

Guidance about how we deal with requests for information can be located on
our [1]website, however in the meantime, thank you for your interest in
Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

 

Kind regards

 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[2]www.avonfire.gov.uk
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Help save a tree - please do not print this email unless you really need
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Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

12 Attachments

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write in response to your request for information dated 17.01.2018
requesting additional information following our response (sent 29.11.2017
copy attached) to your request (our ref 4079) concerning Avon Fire
Authority non-current assets.

 

Your request for information has been dealt with under the terms of the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and I can confirm that Avon Fire &
Rescue Service (on behalf of Avon Fire Authority - AFA) holds some of the
information falling within the description specified within your request
dated 17.01.2018.  Please find below our response to your questions.

 

Please would you explain why in order to reconcile your asset register
with your published accounts you have included a “difference” of over £33
million from the purchase cost as recorded in the asset register?  There
is no ‘difference’, the items of enhancements/revaluations etc. are listed
in rows 859-865 of the “Total assets tab” issued to you within our
response on 29.11.17 (copy of response attached). Please also find
attached a simple reconciliation of the data provided in that spreadsheet
to the Statement of Accounts 31.03.2017.
Please provide details of exactly how this difference is made up i.e.
impairments, depreciation, revaluations, enhancements, additions,
disposals etc, for each asset. –The detail of the enhancements,
revaluations etc. as per above and summarised on rows 859-865 are listed
by asset in columns F-M of the asset register sheet provided on
29.11.2017.
This difference appears to have occurred in the period between 01/04/2007
when the Revaluation Reserve came into being and 01/04/2010. Shouldn’t the
impairments of over £20 million in this period have been recorded in the
Impairment reserve?   See above
As per another whatdotheyknow request you explained re your asset
register/capital accounting:

“We also have a rolling maintenance contract with Real Asset Management
Plc for capital accounting, since Sept 2009, average spend £1.3k per
year.  For finance asset management will also use Hardcat Ltd, which is on
an annual rolling maintenance contract since April 2003 and annual spend
is £8.2k.”

In reply to my previous request you mention that it is difficult to
extract basic information from your asset register:

“Please appreciate that the information that you are requesting is not
readily extracted from the Asset Register and due to temporary resource
implications within the finance department, expertise to gather this
information is limited”.

It seems AFRS are paying very large amounts for a poor system, which
perhaps also inhibits proper auditing to be done on non-current assets.
This statement is your own opinion.  AFA hold the raw data but is not
required to analyse or report on this data in the format that you have
requested. It therefore requires time and expertise to extract this
information to meet your request.
Please explain why all information was not transferred from one system to
another (from the same provider), and if this wasn’t possible why figures
weren’t entered manually, to ensure proper record keeping?  This is not
information held by AFA. Please note that AFA’s policy is that financial
information is only kept for six years plus the current year.
It would appear that notes to your published accounts explaining treatment
of transactions relating to non-current assets may not be being followed.
Also per my previous request: 
"•       Could you also let me know if impairments (over and above any
revaluation reserve amount) which I understand are included in the income
and expenditure account, are recorded in the Impairment Reserve in the
asset register?
Yes – the asset register records all movements on the impairment reserve
by asset."

Please provide registration numbers for the following disposed of
vehicles, whose asset register numbers are as follows:  Please see a
Attached in ‘Disposals Reg No’ sheet
414, 416, 419, 430 to 463. 468, 469, 470, 472, 473, 475, 476, 477, 547,
548, 549, 550, 581, 582, 583, 584.

Please also provide details of how these vehicles were disposed of. 
Please see attached in ‘Disposals Reg No’ sheet
Please provide details of assets numbered as below in the asset register
or let me know if these were not used at all:  54, 55, 387, 429, 523, 524,
525, 526, 527, 528, 529, 536 as no information is shown for these. The
asset register allocates numbers sequentially. Where an error on entry is
made and subsequently deleted ie an asset entry is duplicated, then the
number does not appear in the asset register.
Also, please let me know if I am correct in the following
•       Fire House: 9 Lyndale Road, Yate, BS37  appears to be valued at 
Zero No this is not  – This particular asset is valued at fair value in
accordance with the accounting policies, please refer to the Statement of
Accounts 2016/17 for details of Accounting Policies
[1]https://www.avonfire.gov.uk/documents/ca...
pages 26-38.
•       a total of £18.4 million for depreciation and impairment appears
to have been charged/written off for just the buildings of Temple HQ and
the old Temple Fire Station over the ten years since 01/04/07: 
Temple Back Station & HQ Purchase cost per Asset Register £18,845,783
Temple Back Station & HQ Enhancements per Asset Register £741,222
Temple Back Station & HQ depreciation at 01/04/07 £1,165,848

•       2016/17 Impairment (i.e. loss in value) for one year on New Temple
Fire Station buildings approx £900,000 (20% of its cost)

Full details of the valuation and costs in relation to Temple Back HQ and
old Temple Back Fire Station have already been provided.

•       Vehicle valuations appear to be based on current market cost
including VAT divided by years of expected life, and I believe should be
based on cost excluding VAT (as I believe input VAT is reclaimed) No this
is not correct – Valuations would always be excluding VAT, as indeed VAT
is reclaimed.

Please may we bring to you attention that under Section 12 (Cost Limit) of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), AF&RS has aggregated all three
of your requests into one for the purposes of determining whether the cost
of complying with the requests has exceeded the appropriate cost limit,
which is set for public authorities at £450, representing 18 work hours of
effort (£25 per person per hour processing the request), which includes:

·         determining whether AF&RS holds the information;

·         finding the requested information, or records containing the
information;

·         retrieving the information or records; and

·         extracting the requested information from records in a suitable
format as requested by the applicant

AF&RS has taken into account the attributable time that staff have already
spent in undertaking the above activates and we now calculate that the
time spent on processing all three requests that you have submitted on the
subject now exceeds the cost limit.  This figure takes into account the
time taken by myself to process the administration of the request
(including formulating the responses) and the time taken by the finance
team to extract the data and provide answers to your questions.

 

In reality the true cost to the Authority for the processing of your 3
requests exceeds this amount.  At present AFA use the services of an
external consultant to prepare the management accounts, and therefore we
have had to ask them to undertake the work involved in processing this
request, which has resulted in a distraction from the work that they are
commissioned to do at an added cost to the AFA. Whilst AFA will hold the
raw data for the subject of your request for non-current assets within our
management accounting system, the collection of data that you have
requested (which we provided within the various excel spreadsheets) is not
something that we routinely use in that format within our standard
reporting and therefore new reports to extract the data had to be done and
information verified before it can be released, which has all attributed
to the time spent.

 

Whilst we have been cooperative and have provided you with the information
requested, which is not part of our standard reporting, we now advise that
the cost limit has been reached.  Please note that any further requests
for information relating to the management accounting of AFA non-current
assets will incur a charge under Section 13 (Charges) FOIA (which AFA will
charge at £25 (VAT exempt) per hour for work undertaken on any addition
requests) or depending on the nature of the request, will issue a refusal
notice.  Please appreciate, especially in the current economic climate,
that such requests for information form a significant burden in terms of
distraction to staff and effort expended and we would be grateful if you
could consider any future requests on this subject carefully to ascertain
what information is necessary for your purposes.

 

Please note that there is no charge for information we have provided so
far.

 

Please note that any future requests of a similar nature received by us
within a 60 working day period will also be taken into account.

 

Further guidance about information request refusals is available on the
ICO website
[2]https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/gui....

 

I hope that you find the above/attached information useful.

 

Guidance about how we deal with requests for information can be located on
our [3]website.  AF&RS retain request correspondence for the current
financial year plus 3 years.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled, you can request an internal review within 40 working days of us
issuing the original response.  Please submit requests in writing,
including your grounds for a review, to the Data Protection Officer,  Avon
Fire & Rescue Service, Police & Fire Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road,
Portishead, Bristol BS20 8JJ, telephone 0117 9262061, or by emailing
[4][Avon Fire and Rescue Service request email].

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745.
 Website [5]www.ico.org.uk. There is no charge for making an appeal.

 

Thank you for your interest in Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

 

Kind regards

 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[6]www.avonfire.gov.uk
Working smoke alarms save lives
Help save a tree - please do not print this email unless you really need
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Dear Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests/ AFRS

Firstly there is a difference of £33 million! It is headed "Diff between Purchase Cost and value on tfr"….and is shown in column B of the "asset Register 2009" tab ….of the Excel workbook "FOI4079 Response".

Later in your response you say that you are unable to provide details of this difference, which earlier you said didn’t exist, as AFRS have disposed of the records.

I did not require you to reconcile the figures for me, I have been doing that myself, but in your reconciliation rather than use the Purchase Cost of Assets as per the register you use a column headed Purchase Cost/Value at 01.04/10. This is where the £33 million pound difference appears.

I do not see ANY information in rows 859 to 865 of Total Assets worksheet, which you refer to.

9 Lyndale Avenue is valued at £120,000 (significantly below the market price) and has had £120,000 of depreciation deducted from it’s value leaving it at a nil value in the accounts.

I find it extremely odd that most appliances and vehicles are significantly revalued upwards to well above their recent purchase price.

Regarding losses in value through depreciation and impairment on Temple Back HQ and Temple Back old and new Fire Stations - As you don’t argue with my statements which are based as you say on information already provided I take these shocking figures to be correct.

I would like to assure you that I have spent a considerably greater amount of my own unpaid time uncovering these worrying items and consider these warrant proper investigation and explanation, which I have not and now apparently can not expect to receive from AFRS. This has distracted me from other important matters of my own, but I saw that the Home Office report hadn’t been able to go into capital accounting which I had, I believe, justified worries about.

I would like to know who I should take my concerns of improper accounting to, although if you are going to charge me for providing these contact details please let me know how much you intend to charge so I may consider whether to pay out of my own very small pocket to ensure proper scrutiny of AFRS finances, which auditors appear to have failed to provide, considering the Home Office report found senior officers were primarily operating the organisation for their own benefit, and following report publication remain(ed) on the payroll.

Also I think tax payers would be happier for AFRS to spend a bit more addressing the concerns I have raised, rather than spending huge sums bringing legal cases against those who saw the wrongdoing /and instigated the Home Office report.

Yours sincerely,

Jenni Gwynne

Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write to confirm receipt of your email and will pass on your comments to
the Interim Treasurer and the Clerk to the Fire Authority to see if they
have any feedback.

 

Kind regards
 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[1]www.avonfire.gov.uk
Working smoke alarms save lives
Help save a tree - please do not print this email unless you really need
to.
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Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

4 Attachments

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write in response to your email dated 19.02.2018, which we have
processed as a continuation of your previous Freedom of Information
requests.

 

Please find our comments as below (your original questions are in blue
text):

 

Firstly there is a difference of £33 million! It is headed "Diff between
Purchase Cost and value on tfr"….and is shown in column B of the "asset
Register 2009" tab ….of the Excel workbook "FOI4079 Response".

Later in your response you say that you are unable to provide details of
this difference, which earlier you said didn’t exist, as AFRS have
disposed of the records.

I did not require you to reconcile the figures for me, I have been doing
that myself, but in your reconciliation rather than use the Purchase Cost
of Assets as per the register you use a column headed Purchase Cost/Value
at 01.04/10. This is where the £33 million pound difference appears.

Avon Fire Authority is required to prepare its annual statement of
accounts in accordance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations and proper
accounting practices. These practices primarily comprise the Code of
Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom supported by
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

 

The accounting convention adopted in the Statement of Accounts is
principally historical cost, modified by the revaluation of certain
categories of non-current assets and financial instruments.

As a result Operational Land and Properties and other operational assets
are revalued annually and included in the balance sheet at the lower of
net current replacement cost or net realisable value. The purchase cost of
an asset will therefore be replaced in the asset register over time by the
impact of the revaluation process each year.  

The purchase cost or historic costs of an asset is still recorded in the
asset register to enable the appropriate accounting entries to be made to
the revaluation reserve to properly account for realised and unrealised
gains and losses.

The difference of £33m that you refer to is the difference between the
historic costs of the assets and the revalued or current costs of the
assets which was the position at the time the current asset register was
introduced.

We attach a reconciliation of the figures in the asset register 2009 tab
that you refer to, against the figures in the 2008/09 statement of
accounts. This shows a direct comparison of the values reported.

For your information we also attach a copy of the 2008/09 Statement of
Accounts. If you look at note 8 on page 29 you will see on the face of the
statement a large impairment in excess of £24m that went through in that
year. This impairment was required in order to reflect the consequential
impact on the property market of the financial crisis caused by the
banking sector collapse at that time.

I do not see ANY information in rows 859 to 865 of Total Assets worksheet,
which you refer to.

We are uncertain as why you can’t see this information and therefore
attach again.  Please note that the data is within column K.

9 Lyndale Avenue is valued at £120,000 (significantly below the market
price) and has had £120,000 of depreciation deducted from it’s value
leaving it at a nil value in the accounts.

It is agreed that the value for this property does appear to be on the low
side. Arrangements have been put in place to have the value of this
property reassessed and the impact of this revaluation will be reflected
within the Statement of Accounts (SOA) for the current year 2017/18. As
this property is not an operational asset it should be valued at its’ fair
value, determined as the amount that would be paid for the asset in its
existing use.  The deprecation of £120,000 that has been provided on this
asset is an error and again this will be corrected in the asset register
along with the revaluation and reflected within the SOA for 2017/18.

I find it extremely odd that most appliances and vehicles are
significantly revalued upwards to well above their recent purchase price.

The revaluation of appliances and vehicles is undertaken annually by the
Fire Authority’s internal Fleet Engineer as stated in our accounting
policies (17 – Non-current Asset Valuation, Page 59). It should be noted
that not all appliances have the same specification and therefore there
will be variations in valuations.

Regarding losses in value through depreciation and impairment on Temple
Back HQ and Temple Back old and new Fire Stations - As you don’t argue
with my statements which are based as you say on information already
provided I take these shocking figures to be correct.

 

As indicated above Avon Fire Authority is required to prepare its annual
statement of accounts in accordance with the Accounts and Audit
Regulations and proper accounting practices. These practices primarily
comprise the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United
Kingdom supported by International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
As stated in our accounting policies, operational land and buildings are
valued at the lower of net current replacement costs or net realisable
value. The valuation of the Fire Authority’s land and buildings is
undertaken annually by external qualified valuers. For 2016/17 this was
Cushman and Wakefield.

I would like to assure you that I have spent a considerably greater amount
of my own unpaid time uncovering these worrying items and consider these
warrant proper investigation and explanation, which I have not and now
apparently can not expect to receive from AFRS. This has distracted me
from other important matters of my own, but I saw that the Home Office
report hadn’t been able to go into capital accounting which I had, I
believe, justified worries about.

We trust that the above response provides the explanations that you
require.

 

I would like to know who I should take my concerns of improper accounting
to, although if you are going to charge me for providing these contact
details please let me know how much you intend to charge so I may consider
whether to pay out of my own very small pocket to ensure proper scrutiny
of AFRS finances, which auditors appear to have failed to provide,
considering the Home Office report found senior officers were primarily
operating the organisation for their own benefit, and following report
publication remain(ed) on the payroll.

The Fire Authority’s draft accounts for 2017/18 will be open to public
inspection in June 2018 and if you have any concerns then you should raise
these with the Fire Authority’s external auditors Grant Thornton at that
time.  A notice will be posted on our website nearer the time.

 

Also I think tax payers would be happier for AFRS to spend a bit more
addressing the concerns I have raised, rather than spending huge sums
bringing legal cases against those who saw the wrongdoing /and instigated
the Home Office report.

I trust that the above response provides the explanations that you
require.

 

Please note that there is no charge for the work involved in this
response, however, work required for any further requests will be
considered as per our email dated 09.02.2018.

 

Guidance about how we deal with requests for information can be located on
our [1]website.  AF&RS retain request correspondence for the current
financial year plus 3 years.

 

If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled, you can request an internal review within 40 working days of us
issuing the original response.  Please submit requests in writing,
including your grounds for a review, to the Data Protection Officer,  Avon
Fire & Rescue Service, Police & Fire Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road,
Portishead, Bristol BS20 8JJ, telephone 0117 9262061, or by emailing
[2][Avon Fire and Rescue Service request email].

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at: The
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745.
 Website [3]www.ico.org.uk. There is no charge for making an appeal.

 

Thank you for your interest in Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

 

Kind regards

 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[4]www.avonfire.gov.uk
Working smoke alarms save lives
Help save a tree - please do not print this email unless you really need
to.
[5]cid:image001.jpg@01D3B0AF.0095A990

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests,
Dear AFRS

I was already aware of the reason for the £24 million impairment and that is not my issue. The failure to record these and other impairments and depreciation occurring before 1 April 2010, in compliance with your stated accounting policy, means that subsequent upward revaluations are not being credited to the depreciation and impairment line in the Income and Expense Account, in contravention of your stated practice.

Your reply regarding the large upward revaluation of vehicles is nonsensical. If it refers to enhancements being added these are capital spending added to the total cost, not revaluations.

The CIPFA guidance on non-current asset accounting that you previously provided to me (as it didn’t appear to be available publicly) clearly states that Fair Value (and net realisable value) should not be used for valuing operational assets, such as fire stations. Depreciated Historical Cost should be used. Therefore the impairment of £900,000 on the new Temple Back Fire Station is surely incorrect. As is the huge impairment on Hicks Gate. It would appear all operational properties and equipment have been incorrectly valued “at the lower of net current replacement cost or net realisable value”.

From recent information provided I have discovered that over £1.3 million of losses on disposal of vehicles, stated in the accounts over the last few years, was on ex-lease vehicles which remained in AFRS possession after these losses were declared, and are marked in the asset register not as disposals but as assets transferred to another entry in the asset register, following a lease buy out arrangement or the lease ending. Many of these vehicles later went to the Gambia, whilst those still at AFRS, being fire appliances, presumably will go to the Gambia later. These “disposals” were not reported in your reply to a whatdotheyknow request for such information.

My non-expert reading of required treatment of leases suggest that this is not correct accounting. It took a lot of time to discover where the losses on vehicles had occurred as I would have expected them to have been on disposed of vehicles; and, as these vehicles weren’t actually disposed of, you did not include them in your whatdotheyknow response to a request by someone else for details of vehicle disposals

I had to specifically request registration numbers of vehicles showing large losses on disposal, as per the asset register, as these details appeared to have been removed from earlier information provided to me.

Having previously been provided with detailed depreciation information for the year to 31 March 2017, there are some very worrying entries. For example, in the 2015/16 accounts a loss of £31,000 was declared on disposal of a leased Water Tender Ladder, registration WU53 CYP, which wasn’t disposed of. It was retained through a third part buy out and re-entered in the asset register at a purchase cost of £16,500. On 31/12/16 it was revalued upward by £74,000, then £78,250 was charged as depreciation in the accounts for the three months to 31/3/17, leaving it with a nil value. Also the total depreciation figure showing against this second or third entry in the asset register for this vehicle is £313,000, based on a cost £16,500. Presumably similar amounts of depreciation have already been charged against this vehicle per its earlier asset register entry.

£16,500 was also paid for another Water Tender Ladder WU53 CYO also in March 2016. This vehicle is recorded as having been donated to the Gambia in September 2014 with a loss on disposal of £64,084 charged to the accounts, so a total loss presumably of £80,584.

You say I can at some point in the future contact your external auditors regarding the 2017/18 accounts and so have failed to provide details of who I should contact regarding the improper accounting which has occurred in preceding years.

Also, I see no reason to have confidence in your external auditors who have failed the public regarding matters only exposed by the Home Office investigation, and who for several years, along with your external valuers, appear perhaps to have enabled AFRS to manipulate non-fixed asset accounting.

Your reply confirms my concerns that there have been serious and financially material failings by your treasurer (past and present), fleet engineer, Cushman & Wakefield - your long-term external valuers (aka DTZ, Donaldsons), Grant Thornton - your auditors and AFRS senior management. I would like to know who to approach in order that a proper investigation into your capital accounting and related areas can be carried out. I was initially alarmed by, to quote AFRS management, “the unexpected resignation of the Director of Finance and Asset Management,” who was also Avon Fire Authority Treasurer, which coincided with the announcement of the Home Office inspection into AFRS and what I have found has been far from reassuring.

Yours sincerely
Jenni Gwynne

Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write to confirm receipt of your email dated 18.04.2018, which has been
forwarded to the Clerk to the Fire Authority.

 

Kind regards
 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[1]www.avonfire.gov.uk
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Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

In response to your email dated 18.04.2018, please find below a response
from the Avon Fire Authority Interim Treasurer and Finance Manager:

 

The Annual Statement of Accounts of Avon Fire Authority has been prepared
by independent professional advisors, Bristol City Council (BCC), in
accordance with the terms and conditions of a financial services contract.
BCC provide financial advice and guidance and are required to ensure that
the Annual Statement of Accounts is prepared in accordance with the
Accounts and Audit Regulations and proper accounting practices. These
practices primarily comprise of  the Code of Practice on Local Authority
Accounting, issued annually by CIPFA, supported by International Financial
Reporting Standards.

 

The Fire Authority’s Annual Statement of Accounts is audited each year by
independent external auditors. The Fire Authority’s current auditor is
Grant Thornton LLP who was appointed under a contract let by the Audit
Commission. This contract is currently managed by Public Sector Audit
Appointments Limited (PSAA), the transitional body set up by the Local
Government Association (LGA), with delegated authority from the Secretary
of State. Grant Thornton LLP will continue as Avon Fire Authority’s
independent auditor until the completion of their 2017/18 audit.

 

The Fire Authority’s Accounts have been independently audited by Grant
Thornton LLP since 2012/13 having previously been audited by the Audit
Commission. The transactions to which you refer will have been subjected
to independent scrutiny as part of the audit in each of the years
concerned and the independent auditor has concluded that in their opinion
the financial statements:

 

·         give a true and fair view of the financial position of Avon Fire
Authority as at 31 March in each of the financial years and of its
expenditure and income for the year then ended; and

·          have been properly prepared in accordance with the CIPFA/LASAAC
Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom

 

The anonymised contents of your latest Freedom of Information request has
been forwarded  to Grant Thornton LLP who have indicated that they will
have mind to it whilst conducting their current audit of the 2017/18
Statement of Accounts.

 

The software used by Avon Fire Authority to maintain its fixed asset
register and produce the capital accounts is provided by Real Asset
Management (RAM). This software has been designed to enable compliance
with International Financial Reporting Standards, the Code of Practice on
Local Authority Accounting and CIPFA guidelines for capital accounting. It
is used by over 80 Local Authorities, district councils and county
councils across the UK. It is also used across a number of other market
sectors as follows:

 

·         Central Government – used by over 80 Central Government
organisations and shared services centres across the UK

·         Charity/Not for profit - used by over 180 charity/not for profit
organisations

·         Commercial - implemented across 1,000+ commercial organisations
in over 70 countries

·         Defence sector

·         Education - used by over 100 educational establishments

·         Housing – used by over 180 housing associations

·         NHS – used by over 200 NHS Trusts, including 40 Foundation
Trusts.

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In response to your questions within your email dated 18.04.2018:

 

You say I can at some point in the future contact your external auditors
regarding the 2017/18 accounts and so have failed to provide details of
who I should contact regarding the improper accounting which has occurred
in preceding years. When the draft 2017/18 Statement of Accounts is ready
for public consultation (which is currently being discussed with our
auditors), we will post a notice on our website providing members of the
public with guidance about how they can provide feedback. We anticipate
this will be June time. 

 

I would like to know who to approach in order that a proper investigation
into your capital accounting and related areas can be carried out. If you
remain dissatisfied with our above explanation (rather than the actual
information provided under the FOIA), AF&RS has a formal complaints
process for members of the public
[1]https://www.avonfire.gov.uk/contact-us/n...
and our Compliments & Complaints Policy can also be accessed from our
website
[2]https://www.avonfire.gov.uk/documents/ca....

 

In handling your Freedom of Information Request:

 

Please note that under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, we are
required to provide information/data, which we have previously done in the
form of spreadsheets of financial data.  We have done our best to explain
the data that we have provided and how we account for our non-current
assets, however, much of the content of your email to us dated 18.04.2018
constitutes as your own opinion, which we are not required to comment on
under the Act.

 

Given the above response, and should you continue to remain dissatisfied
with our handling of your request and the information that we provided
under the FOIA, you can request an internal review within 40 working days
of this email.  Please submit requests in writing, including your grounds
for a review, to the Clerk to the Fire Authority,  Avon Fire & Rescue
Service, Police & Fire Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road, Portishead,
Bristol BS20 8JJ, telephone 0117 9262061, or by emailing
[3][email address].

 

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your FOI request or
complaint, you have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner
at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625
545 745.  Website [4]www.ico.org.uk. There is no charge for making an
appeal.

 

Thank you for your interest in Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

 

Kind regards

 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
[5]www.avonfire.gov.uk
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Dear Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests,
Dear AFRS
In reply to your Interim Treasurer and Finance Manager’s latest response:
You seem to be saying that you stand by the accounting treatment of everything I have raised – whether occurring on your watch or that of the previous Director of Finance, Assurance and Asset Management and Treasurer.
The only property the value of which could be easily assessed by a non-expert, it being a house, has apparently repeatedly over several years been professionally valued at about half of it’s market value and been depreciated to a net book value of zero.
If you expect me to accept that everything else in the accounts is exactly as it should be, I see no basis for doing this. I have given clear examples where this is not the case.
On the other hand, you seem to be saying you rely on Bristol City Council (BCC) for the accuracy of the accounts, but it is you who is highly paid as Treasurer and Finance Manager, with financial responsibility for assets, and who signs the accounts, so presumably the buck should stop with you.
Are you also suggesting that the nonsensical figures I mentioned regarding revaluations and depreciation are the fault of your software?
I noted during a recent AFA meeting, when a councillor questioned the need expressed by you and other senior management to take the maximum rise in Council Tax available, despite the unexpectedly high multi-million pound windfall from the sale of Temple Back land, you totally dismissed the benefit of this in relation to day to day finances.
How were you planning to fund the long planned rebuilding of three more stations, Capital Grants having virtually ceased? The recent new stations have, I believe, been substantially funded through Revenue income from Council Tax payers and other tax sources. So you dismissed the councillor’s valid point, wrongly telling them this had no impact on Revenue finances.
You say Bristol City Council is responsible for the accounts, but the Bristol City Council CIPFA Accountant responsible for AFRS accounts, and also a more senior finance person at BCC both informed me that AFRS does all its own Capital Accounting – the area of my concern.
The BCC AFRS accountant also said AFRS enters all purchase ledger expenditure themselves and BCC merely matches invoices to this. He also said that due to inaccurate analysis and virtually non-existent descriptions by AFRS finance staff (as can be seen in your monthly reports of spending over £500) he relies on AFRS to correct their entry errors.
I have given clear evidence that the accounts have not been prepared in accordance with CIPFA or as per the notes to your accounts, but you say as BCC or Grant Thornton haven’t noticed/reported this then any errors are irrelevant. Bearing in mind Grant Thornton consider anything below £1.157 million is immaterial, so may not be mentioned!
AFRS, post-Home Office Inspection, still seems to think it is untouchable (Deputy Chief Fire Officer still suspended on full pay I believe – annual salary including benefits in kind and employer pension contributions £136,580 last year). And from the (from what I’ve seen) lack of change in attitude since the Inspection, and the dedicated efforts of certain AFA councillors trying to clean up AFRS yielding limited progress, it seems you are in effect untouchable!
As you included part of the auditors report from the accounts in your response, I am including below what else they said, which is relevant to my concerns:
“Basis for adverse conclusion

In considering the Authority’s arrangements for securing efficiency, economy and effectiveness we identified the following matters:

In July 2017 the Home Office published a Statutory Inspection report of Avon Fire Authority under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999. The report concluded that:
• the Authority failed to comply with its section 3 duty. Section 3 requires a best value authority to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. This failure was due to weaknesses in governance arrangements such as insufficient scrutiny of decisions by Members, inadequate information to support decisions made, inappropriate treatment of Member challenge and a focus on maintaining consensus.
• failings in leadership and culture have meant that the Authority has not secured continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Inspector reported that the Authority took some steps to improve its governance arrangements following a peer review in 2015, including the introduction of a new committee structure in 2016. However, the Inspector’s report also indicated the need for a more fundamental cultural change in the Authority to enable it to fulfil its value for money duty under section 3.

The above matters are weaknesses in the Authority’s arrangements for:
• acting in the public interest through demonstrating and applying the principles and values of good governance,
• understanding and using appropriate information to support informed decision making and performance management,
• managing risks effectively and maintaining a sound system of internal control and,
• planning finances effectively to support the sustainable delivery of strategic priorities and maintain statutory functions.
Adverse Value for Money Conclusion
On the basis of our work, having regard to the guidance on the specified criteria issued by the Comptroller and Auditor General in November 2016, because of the significance of the matters described in the basis for adverse conclusion paragraphs above, we are not satisfied that, in all significant respects, the Authority put in place proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of its resources for the year ended 31 March 2017. “

As you suggested, I will be registering this as an official complaint which I wish to be investigated by independent inspectors of AFRS, to whom I wish to provide additional evidence of numerous other serious and material financial discrepancies, so I will expect a reply from that route rather than from here.

Yours sincerely

Jenni Gwynne

Freedom of Information Act & Data Protection Requests, Avon Fire and Rescue

2 Attachments

Dear Ms Gwynne

 

I write to acknowledge your email dated 11.06.2018 and please find the
attached letter.

 

Kind regards
 

Joanna Warren
Data Protection Co-ordinator (Mon-Thurs), Corporate Services
Avon Fire & Rescue Service
Telephone: 0117 926 2061 Extension: 302
Mobile:
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